RuneQuest Activity

The Runes are an ancient Germanic and Norse alphabet believed to have been in use in Northern Europe for 2,000 years. In Viking times, the Runes were carved into bone, small rounds of wood or stones. The Old Norse meaning of the word “rune” is “to whisper the mysteries.” There are 24 symbols in the Elder Futhark, or Germanic, Anglo-Saxon, Norse”Viking” rune alphabet. Each symbol relates to an ancient saga or poem from the Eddas, an 8th Century collection of Norsemen’s and women’s travels to Iceland, Greenland and North America. These stories include the interaction of the Norse gods and goddesses with humans, and are filled with powerful forces, courage and mystery. 

Each of the 24 rune symbols has many meanings and identifies specific actions, energies and guidance for those who enter into the Rune Quest. Each rune also has symbolic color/s which represent it in ritual adornment and the creation of Cairns or Ancestor altars set in nature. By “casting” (throwing) or drawing a small runestone from a bag, or tray the questioner may ask for directions or information on the next best step in his or her life.  

How to go on your own RuneQuest 

  1. In this version of the process, look at the following rune images and choose one without first reading its description.  
  1. When you choose your rune, before reading further, see what the image symbolizes for you. 
  1. Then, read the description below. These descriptions assist the questioner in interpreting the specific meaning of this rune, relating it to their personal life and intentions for the future. 
  1. Ask a friend or partner to look at the rune with you and share their interpretation for and with you. 
  1. You may wish to create a sturdy cardboard or wooden disc on which to draw and carve, burn or paint your Equinox Rune.  We create wood discs with holes drilled through for leather or twine. These we hang on our front doors, they adorn our regalia and personally- created ritual Staffs.

The RuneQuest is meant to be an interesting and evocative experience and is drawn from the Old World indigenous cultures of many of our ancestors. As an ecopsychology and dedicated intentional undertaking, the RuneQuest may help us to reclaim and enliven original Earth honoring practices and traditions brought by our ancestors to North America. We are re-creating these powerful ancient healing and intention-focusing traditions as we bring forward perennial guidance to serve and heal contemporary needs. In the ancient wisdom practices of Northern Europe, it is believed that, through the RuneQuest we may also direct right action and commitment to the Earth, our community environment and life purpose for the coming year. You may choose to dedicate the next year to honoring the special rune which chooses YOU! 

The RuneQuest is here. The Transformations of Autumn Equinox are nigh!

Skol! Blessings from Godmother Marcie Telander

The Mythology of the Earth Dragon

In earliest myths and cosmologies, the Dragon is all that is pure, neutral, chthonic, undomesticated, original and uncivilized. She is the most organic symbol of the untamed and untamable, the ancient of ancients, First Nature. She is the fire of life in all things, the bearer of the truth, and the “pearl beyond price.” Currently, in Vinotok, the Earth Dragon is a representation of the divine and primordial feminine earth energies. 

The Earth Dragon is the fierce guard and protector of the natural world, rising up to wreak vengeance on humanity as it misuses, abuses and plunders the Earth. She takes on all patriarchal and greedy, death-dealing characters, acting as champion for, not only the survival, but the thrival of Earth.

The Old-Timers from various European cultures often saw the Butte as a sleeping dragon or griffin which might be awakened when injustice invades the valley.

Marrying the Land Activity

History and Mythology -This ancient European Ceremony was practiced for many centuries to ensure that the People and the Earth would be in balance, health and harmony. Ours is the first contemporary community that we know of, who have reclaimed and recreated this ritual for the 21st Century. 

The Autumn Equinox is a time of balance as the Sun “stands still” and signifies a time of equal Day, equal Night, equal Masculine, equal Feminine, equal Dark, equal Light and the requirement for a commitment to balance between Humans and the Earth.  

At the Vinotok Harvest Feast, in the beginning of the All-Community Handfasting ceremony this Wedding with the Earth Ritual is performed with the chosen Leader, our beloved Green Man and a mature woman and healer who embodies the Earth Goddess in the form of Sovereignty.  

Sovereignty is the force of Nature who must be obeyed.  She is the divine Feminine Wisdom figure who stands as the ultimate, and independent maker of Earth destiny, requiring compassionate reciprocity between humans and the Land.  She alone decides how this balance is to be established.  If humans lose their way, raping and pillaging Sovereignty’s Lands, she retaliates by creating the Wasteland. This is the ultimate suffering for humanity, and may only be healed when kinship and honorable service is reestablished with the Earth. As the Green Man honors her, so shall the people join in honoring her laws.  

Sovereignty enters the gathered community singing an ancient love song, beckoning the Green Man and the community to join her in a beloved and powerful ceremony. 

When we ennoble the personhood of all species and life-forms, exalting all of her Lands, we are courting the Earth in our dedication to the spirit of Place and the sacred ground of our home. As we establish our compassionate kinship and serve her we can be said to Marry the Land, to promise to make our pledges to the Earth as we preserve and protect the fragile balance of health in our environment. 

As Sovereignty beckons the Green Man she bids him and all of the men who wish to kneel before her to pledge his Oath. 

Create Your Own Ceremony 

This ritual can be celebrated by individuals, couples, families and friends or as we share it–by an entire community.  

Gather a chalice or goblet of sweet pure water and a cup of Earth. 

Write your vows, promises, commitments to the Earth for the coming Year and a Day. 

These can best be drawn from your Journaling activites which are written during Vinotok week. (See the and PILGRIMAGE OF THE WAY instructions.) 

Creating Sacred Space – Choose a special place in Nature as your wedding bower. Make a circle identifying each of the four Cardinal Directions with a small altar of stones, natural totems and biodegradable offerings that can feed birds, animals, the Earth. 

Regalia – Sovereignty loves natural beauty! Wear clothing that makes you feel wonderful and feels honoring and appropriate for an Earthy ceremony. Head wreaths are highly recommended for everyone!  Gathering natural fresh and sustainably harvested greens, willows, dried herbs which you collect in the woods or from your garden are a lovely ritual in themselves. Plus, you can let them dry and place them on your door. (see Wreath-Making Instructions on or in the Fire Circle of Altars) 

The Ceremony – When you have prepared your sacred space in nature, placing the goblet of water and cup of Earth in the center of your circle you may want to purge and protect the space and the participants.  You can make and use a smudge-stick of dried sage or other woody herbs tightly bundled together with natural thread. Then lighting it safely, waft the smoke around the circle, yourself and others who are joining you. 

Plighting Our Troth – Each individual will read/speak their vows or promises and accountability to our Mother Earth. As we do this, we may choose to kneel on one knee to show our respect and reverence.  We may begin speaking our vows by honoring our Ancestors and all of the Spirit and Nature Kin who are joining us for this ceremony.  Begin your vow sharing by saying: 

     “As I love myself, I love the Earth.  As I love the Earth, I love myself. I speak these commitments so that I may offer myself in joyful service to the Sovereignty of the Land.  

“May all things be blessed and balanced.” 

Take up the cup of Earth and take a small pinch of it to place on your forehead and rub between your hands.  Pass the cup around if others are with you and each will do the same.  Then each says: 

       “With this precious Earth, I humbly pledge body, spirit and service to protect, preserve and support the health of Our Mother.” 

Take up the goblet and pour some on the Earth, then drink, and pour some on your hands. Pass the goblet of water—or, everyone may wish to drink from their own personal goblet. 

Sealing the Vow – Feeling the Earth and water forming moist mud in their hands each says: 

       “With this precious Water of Life, I pledge to feed the Spirit of the Land, to guard her waters, children and All Beings.” 

All say together:   

         “With this pledge The Wasteland disappears.  The Earth Thrives and loving balance shall be restored.  It is so. And it shall be so.

Bless us All!” 

~Vinotok Godmother, Marcie Telander

The Mythology of the Harvest Mother

The Harvest Mother is the first and most ancient of all archetypes – the divine feminine – She is Mother Nature and the source for all life, the sacred cycle of the seasons. She births the Green Man at Winter Solstice; marries him at Summer Solstice; brings him back into her Earth body at Autumn Equinox; and gestates the Green Man again; until his renewal and rebirth and return of the sacred masculine and the light at Winter Solstice. 

The Great Grump, The Vinotok Effigy

The sacred sacrifice for greater Earth healing

In our community, one of the most important things the Old Timers wanted to communicate and pass forward was, was that although many of them lived extremely difficult and desperately dangerous lives underground and above ground serving the neverunionized mines at the north end of the Gunnison Valley, they were also courageous, fun-loving and rebellious.

In the old countries, including Slovenia and Croatia, folks created wild, sacrificial effigies, a send-up of a local bigwig, filled with grievances, often about the ruling class. The effigy was was tried and sentenced, banished, hanged, and then for extra good measure – burned.

The Old Timers spoke of this as a practice conducted in the autumn, during a time called “Vinotok,” a word translated from Slovenian meaning “the celebration of the season when the grapes were turned into wine.” In Crested Butte, many of the European cultures competed to see who had laid down the best Zinfandel from the
passing year.

This rowdy festival of feasting, generosity of spirit, polka and folk dancing, and drinking up all of the zinfandel led to the hanging and burning of the Boss Man effigy. It was one of the few revolutionary statements the working people, ruled by the Colorado Fuel and Iron Company, could make, hopefully without being fired. This celebration was also a seasonal reminder that this was the last time of abundance before the first snows and the coming of the long, hard winter. It was a time to remember the profound importance of community commitment to each other and the sharing of great generosity of spirit.

For us, today, the Grump symbolizes all we want to rid ourselves of for the coming year. In its creation are all the angers, resentments, frustrations and disappointments of the past ranging from the personal to the political. Indeed, it is full of the community’s “grumps,” slips of paper with an individual’s pains s/he wants to get rid of, and put into the communal Grump Box. The Great Grump itself, is then stuffed with these boxes. It is everything that does not serve us.

In the Trial of the Grump, as the battle between the primordial Earth Dragon and the technocratic Sir Hapless the Knight wages on, it is decided a sacrifice must be made in order that the Green Man and the Red Lady may live, and a luscious and abundant future may prevail. It is decided through a “trial” that the Grump will become that sacrifice and it is paraded to the Fire Circle, where you stand now, to be burned, and all the community’s
woes collectively transformed, to indeed make way for a brighter, and as local legend has it – snowier – year ahead.

Handfasting Activity

For over a decade during Vinotok at the Harvest Feast we celebrate our All-Community Handfasting and Re-Commitment Ceremony. This is an ancient Norse and European tradition in which a couple who choose each other may make a loving commitment, to be loyal, caring, compassionate and co-creative, to support our community and the Earth. 

Handfasting is a contract, which in the Old Norse fashion meant giving one’s word to another and promising to keep it truly and completely. The bond was made through the firm clasping of the forearms or hands of the two parties. We celebrate this at one of the seasonal cycles and celebrations of the year, Mabon or the Autumn Equinox. This is the time at which the Sun pauses and day equals night—or Equinox. It is a time of balance, equality and harmony. It is a time of commitment for the long winter and the next seasonal changes.  

In later times in Britain, handfasting with a red ribbon or cord was the way that country couples would formally designate their “engagement” or marriage. The handmade cord or sash represents the fire of Life in each partner, the blood of the ancestors flowing through the couple and bonds and binds or “fasts” both of their hands in love and loyalty. This is a joyous, conscious and realistic way to approach the ongoing recommitment of relationships, recreating, recommitting and renewing the vows—if both parties wish—every year and a day. In our community Handfasting has been practiced between couples, families and individuals’ statements of their Re-Commitment to the Self. 

Creating the Ceremony 

Regalia  Head wreaths, of course for everyone!Show your love and create a natural Handfasting head wreath for your sweetheart. And, you can dry and save your wreaths hang on your front door, or to add to and wear again in your next Vinotok celebration and Handfasting Re-Commitment ceremony.  

Traditionally, men wore white “peasant” or “poet” shirts and women wore their most wondrous clothing. However, at Vinotok Handfastings folks wear their most wild and wonderful regalia, much of it handmade, hand-me-down and vintage creations. Have fun! 

You will want to find, or better still create your own red Handfasting cord, ribbon, sash. It should be at least three feet long. It is a sweet ritual to sew or string onto the sash special objects, talismans, gifts from the forest or from friends to remind you of your unique story and how you came across the world to find each other. 

You do not need a pastor, priestess, minister or judge for this ceremony. You two are all that is necessary. It is the country way of those who prize freedom and self-created celebrations. 

Creating Sacred Space  If at all possible, choose a place in Nature that is meaningful to both of you, or all of you if this is a group-family re-commitmentceremony. Create your sacred circle by identifying the Four Cardinal Directions. Decorate the Handfasting Circle with little altars in the Directions, and you may wish to place offerings on the altars to honor the Earth and to feed the spirits, animals and the Land. Cornmeal, breadcrumbs, flower seeds and a vessel of water make fine and worthy offerings. 

Enter the Circle from opposite directions. One of the partners wears the Handfasting scarf around their shoulders. As you face each other clasp the opposite forearm of your intended placing yours over theirs. The pulse point on the wrist of both partners will be connected, signifying the love and Life Blood which flow through each to the other. Each pledges their promises, vows, loyalty to the other. 


Each speaks to the other:  

“I (state your name) have come through my life to meet and choose you. I am here to plight my troth, and make my promise to love you, commit to you and have joy with you for the coming Year-And-A-Day.” 

You may wish to speak personal promises and commitments to each other. However, this is not necessary. At this point the old ceremonial way asks the partner who is wearing the Handfasting cord to take it off, and begin to weave the cord around both clasped arms, leaving a foot on each end of the cord free. Each partner takes the end of one cord, and together “tie the knot”(hence the old wedding phrase). 

Each speaks to the other: 

“You are my nourishment. Your love is food for me.” The second partner repeats this vow. 

“I am your nourishment. My love is food for you.” The second partner repeats this vow. 

“I honor that we are fed and nourished by the Earth.” The second partner repeats this vow. 

Lifting your joined handfasted arms up in the air – joyously announce together:   


Kisses of course!! And…. BLESSED BE! (until this time next year) It is so!    

You can hang your decorated Handfasting cord in a special place in your home, ready to use the next time you may choose to Handfast, perhaps for life!  

The Story of Vinotok

Photos by Mark Schwiesow and Lydia Stern-Mountain Magic Media

Becoming the Myth, Living the healing Story. These images have been captured in forest and field, in sun and snow and in the secret haunts and private lives of the archetypal Vinotok characters. These are the fey and the fierce who have woven and created our communal myth for 35 years.

We have caught these earthy folk in their magic, mystery and majesty–simply being who they are and doing what any Other-than-human-beings might do. Welcome to an enchanted Autumn Equinox–Be more Wild than good!

Once upon a time–long ago and long into the future- the Godmother was told an ancient story…

photo Mark Schwiesow
art and photo by Ann Moore

about a village and valley who honor the Earth, and Marry the Land,

and the magical, mysterious people she meets along the Way,

photo Mark Schwiesow

…of a Sacred Smith who creates strange phenomena and Phoenixes of fire,

Photo by Mark Schwiesow

…with the Alchemical Artist who paints the world of First Nature and the Fey,

Photo by Mountain Magic Media

…the glory and power of Harvest Mother, the Valkyrie who comes riding

Photo by Mountain Magic Media

…her golden steed SinNom, and birds winged with flashing light

Photo by Mark Schwiesow

….to visit her sacred Lands

photo by Mark Schwiesow

and the enchanting Maidens who are her spirited stewards of the seasons,

Photo by Mountain Magic Media

…as they await the Harvest Child at Autumn Equinox and return of the Light to come,

photo by Mountain Magic Media

…Harvest Mother is both fierce and compassionate. She is full-bellied and pregnant, riding into battle to protect her Lands,

photo by Mountain Magic Media

…She calls forth the Wasteland to remind man of his devouring greed, of the raping and destruction of her glorious body, the Earth

photo Mark Schwiesow

…She summons the brave and the lonely ones–Crepitus, the Defender of the Great Grump, the sacrifice for the Seasons and return of the Spring…

photo Mark Schwiesow

… the Earth Drummer, keeper of the Seasons and Heartbeat of time,

Photo by Mark Schwiesow

…ahhhh, And answering her call Earth Dragon explodes from the molten depths,

Photo by Mark Schwiesow

…and the majestic Red Lady of Mountain Waters flows forth from her wild streams,

Photo by Mark Schwiesow

…she lifts the Chalice of life, the sacred waters and life blood of Earth have been polluted, the Well Maidens who protect the sacred springs have been ignored, disrespected, endangered

Photo by Mark Schwiesow

…it is now time for the Grand Sorceress to gather and guide the Pilgrimage of Wise Ones,

Photo by Mark Schwiesow

…the Grand Sorceress lights the Cauldron, calling for the Union–

Photo by Mark Schwiesow

…and the many faces of Sovereignty, the most powerful circle of Earth Protectors has become One…

Photo by Mountain Magic Media

…Harvest Mother leads the power of Nature behind her, bringing Life to awakening

Photo by Mark Schwiesow

…the Godmother holds the Book of Ways and Creating as the Seer of past into future, Priestess of the Wyrd, Earth ritual, reverence and respect,

Photo by Mark Schwiesow

…the Earth Dragon and Mother of the Wild, ancient and new

Photo by Mark Schwiesow

…the Alchemical Artist who communes with Earth Beings

Photo by Mark Schwiesow

…and the Red Lady who calls all men to task

photo by Mark Schwiesow

…They bid the Maidens and muses of magical ways, to Call Up the Green Man

Photo by Mark Schwiesow

…the lover and leader, Father of forest and field, brother of all creatures and protector of the Earth,

photo by Mark Schwiesow

He who is chosen by Maidens, Mothers, Warriors and Wise Ones

photo by Mark Schwiesow

…in their searches the Maidens discover the Green Man’s forest haunts,

Photo by Mark Schwiesow

The fierce, tender feminine will not falter–the goal is the Green Man and partner of Earth

photo by Mark Schwiesow

…for a Year and a Day collective unity for all beings, creatures and lands align–

Celebrating our chosen one. Once a Green Man always a Green Man.

photo by Mark Schwiesow

…and now we bring this story to you.

It is time to create your own unique ceremonies for the Land, for reciprocity, for caring kinship and to ignite your community’s deepest spirit.

It is time to stand forth and Celebrate – We are all One with the Earth.

Banishing & Beckoning

Each year at Vinotok we banish our grumps by writing them on slips of paper, stuffing Grump Boxes stashed throughout town, and burning them with the actual Grump (assuming he’s found guilty at the Trial). This year, you may still stuff Grump Boxes with your grumps, those things you wish to Banish both inside and out, and transform them into Beckonings for the future.

At the Fire Circle at the Four-Way where the Crossroads meet, the Grump itself will be installed on Sunday, September 13, in an artistic display never before seen. Throughout Vinotok Week you will be able to walk the stone labyrinth, to place your Banishment Grumps into the Grump itself (instructions on the Grumps & Gratitude form found at one of the altars on the Vinotok Pilgrimage) and hang your Beckoning Prayer Flag (instructions found at one of the altars on the Vinotok Pilgrimage). There is also a ceremonial archway for you to conduct your own personal handfasting ritual (instructions found at one of the altars on the Vinotok Pilgrimage).

What do we need to get rid of, banish and burn from our individual and collective midst? And then … because it is so important to have something that rises from the flames … what do we want to manifest in the future? Banish and Beckon.

In Crested Butte only. Please note there will be no public burning of the Grump. But please be assured, your Grumps, collectively with the rest of the community’s, will be transformed. For our faraway friends, supportive materials will be found on our website on burning your own grumps at home. Free.

Walking a Labyrinth – The Crested Butte Labyrinth of Life

A labyrinth is an ancient tool that can help in deepening our spirituality, bringing forward the connection to our soul which helps us tap into our intuition, creativity, simplicity, body, spirit, intimacy and community. It is a walking meditation or prayer that engages your body, mind and soul. It is a path inward and a path outward, which is the same path, and represents the path we are on in life.

Walking the labyrinth is a meditation. As you move slowly through it, take a step with each full breath, ask a question, put forth an intention, look for a sign. When you reach the center, simply close your eyes and breathe.

How we use the labyrinth is through very personal intention. The labyrinth invites all experiences into its energy; be it grief, joy, love, wonder, or play. Walking the labyrinth is the way to listen to our inner wisdom and receive the answers and support of Spirit and the Universe.

Each time you walk the labyrinth may be for a different reason. You may be seeking:

balance or centering healing experiencing the energies connection to your higher self opening awareness

When we start to walk the labyrinth, we should stand at the opening and take a minute to reflect on what it is we want to learn or the answer we seek. Pause, breathe deeply, and focus attention on your intention so that you are inviting a clear answer. The more consciously we prepare for our walk, the deeper the walk will be.

Start the walk by offering gratitude to your Ancestors, to the Earth, to Life and to the blessings of being at the very center of your community. This is the time to ask for guidance and support from that Being or principle in whose Light you walk and in which you believe; be it Nature, Higher Power, Creator, a spirit animal, an angel, wisdom guide, favorite god or goddess, or the winds. You can take this opportunity to bow to this special Life Force and give thanks. This can be a verbal, visual or a physical bow.

Acknowledge your intention, your support and the commitment to the truth. When you are finished, take a deep breath, step into the labyrinth and let your walk take you to the place of peace and understanding.

Once you reach the center of the labyrinth you can:

relax meditate seek answers to questions

At the Center of the labyrinth you may feel how worries and busy thoughts have dropped away. This is the Still Point in which we pause, breathe and open ourselves to guidance and received knowledge from the Source. Do not hurry. Simply be open and you will receive. Note the four cardinal directions around you. Honor these as well as the three directions Above, Below and Within. When you are ready, begin your journey outward, feeling your intentions deepening with every step and breath. This walking meditation releases tensions and brings a centeredness which allows our intentions to flow through us and out into the world. As you prepare to leave the labyrinth, offer another thought or prayer of thanks. You are Home. It is so.

Blessings from Vinotok Godmother, Marcie Telander

Straw Grumps Activity

In the old countries, including Slovenia and Croatia, folks created wild, sacrificial effigies, a send-up of a local bigwig, filled with grievances, often about the ruling class. The effigy was tried and sentenced, banished, hanged, and then for extra good measure – burned.

Vinotok’s Great Grump effigy is based on this practice. Each year a local artist builds the Grump, who eventually becomes the scapegoat. Community members write their “grumps”–things they want to get rid of, grievances, gripes and complaints–on little pieces of paper and put them in Grump Boxes about town. When the Grump is burned, we as a community cleanse ourselves and our town of all these feelings of negativity, transforming them into a more positive future as we enter the winter season together. It is a cathartic experience to watch your grumps go up with those of your family, friends and neighbors.

This year, there is one Grump Box at the Fire Circle at the crossroads of the Four-Way Stop. Folks are invited to put their grumps there. Vinotok will transform them, thereby offering the experience of our grumps burning collectively.

However, as there will be no public burning for Vinotok 2020, folks may also wish to burn their grumps in their own personal fire–in a backyard fire cauldron, for example, or other fire in accordance with fire restrictions that might be in place. Either way, we thought you might want to create your own Straw Grump Mini-Effigy to burn along with all those grievances, or keep it, whatever feels appropriate to you.


This offering is based on the European harvest tradition of making a Corn Dolly. The Guide of Straw Craftsmen in the UK explain that in countries around the world that grew grains such as wheat, it was thought the Corn Spirit retreated before the oncoming reapers at harvest time, taking refuge in the last of the standing corn. These last few stalks would be fashioned into a Corn Dolly, a receptable in which the Spirit could rest during the winter. In the spring, the Corn Dolly, together with its incumbent Corn Spirit, would be returned to the fields with the new planting. By giving the Corn Spirit a home during the dark and cold winter months, it was hoped to ensure that the forthcoming crop would be a bounteous one.

We don’t grow wheat in Crested Butte, but we do have lots of native grasses to use in making your own Straw Grump. We recommend collecting these for your Straw Grump.

  1. Begin by soaking grass to make it pliable.
  2. Use a piece of tough thread to tie four straws together with a clove hitch just under the heads. If you’re not familiar with the clove hitch knot, watch this:
  3. 3. Plait the straws until you have about 8cms of straw left. To braid with four straws, watch
  4. this:
  5. 4. Bring the four straws up to meet each other and tie firmly at the end of the plaited section with another clove hitch.
  6. 5. Bring this tie down to meet the other tie just under the heads, to form a loop of plaited straw, and tie the two together.
  7. Spread the straw ears out between the straw stalks and allow to dry flat, preferably under a weight.
  8. When dry, you can clip the stalk ends decoratively and add a ribbon bow or a small sprig of dried flower.